Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)
You have to imagine that the dominant color here is GREEN.
It is an intense early morning sun-infused yellow-green. And this plant Skunk Cabbage, which is abundant, soaks up that sun and scatters a brilliant emerald color to all fields. Its shaded parts are deep green with a suggestion of blue, purple and sienna. Where the sunlight glances off the broad rolling leaf tops it is a fluorescent lime-jello yellow color with bits of pale blue and yellow from the bits of sky that accompany the errant photons that find a resting place on your green-hungry winter-starved retinas.

Skunk Cabbage IS Spring. It pushes its way out of the cold muddy wetlands while there is still ice and snow. The inconspicuous fetid-smelling flowers actually generate a little heat which must make their flowering structures that much more irresistible to the flies and other insects. The flower is very sexy in a way: a short flower-encrusted club is encased in a mahogany colored hood. The veil is parted, if you're a fly it's probably quite cozy (but not exactly what you were expecting - rotting flesh perhaps). The leaves come later. And they keep coming. The unfurl to their bright green state well before the other vegetation. Skunk Cabbage is easy to spot.

If you do become an aficionado of this plant, it probably means that you have crossed a certain line that separates you from casual naturalists and those who like an occasional stroll. It might only mean that you are desperate for winter to end and will grasp at any indication that Spring is lingering somewhere just out of sight. OR, it may mean that you've decided that dry socks are not a fabulous priority and that flowers that are not fragrant or appealing in a conventional sense, flowers that display the boudoir more than the lace curtains leading to it are rather "to the point". Well, what Skunk Cabbage is about then is as plain as the nose on your face!

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